Singaporean multimillionaire tricked by wife into giving fortune away, judge rules
Court rules that wife with legal training tricked husband into signing legal document while he was grieving his mother’s death
A young scion of a murdered multimillionaire has succeeded in voiding a legal document he was tricked by his wife into signing, which gave away his fortune to their firstborn.
High Court judge Valerie Thean ruled that the document, called a declaration of trust, cannot stand because the unnamed 33-year-old man had been preyed on by his wife who was angling for his riches should their relationship sour — the divorcing couple are involved in an ongoing suit over ancillary matters.
Justice Thean noted that the 37-year-old wife, who is legally trained and had practised for four years, lied that the deed was nothing more than a “safeguard” to provide for their child that would kick in, should the man suffer an untimely death.
The man, an oil and gas trader, was already “a man of substantial means” from his father’s inheritance before he started working — he had two apartments in the Marina Bay Sands area. Ignoring his mother’s objections, he married the 37-year-old woman in August 2012.
On March 19, 2014, the matriarch was killed at home — the judgment, did not elaborate.
Eight days later, the man and his sister met their mother’s lawyers and learnt that she had named them as executors and trustees of the S$54 million (US$40 million) she left behind, mostly from two properties, in Holland Road and Bukit Timah.
They lunched with the man’s wife that day but kept the contents of the will under wraps.
The same day, the wife drafted the deed by hand, giving away all the man’s assets to their son, but to be held on trust by them jointly. An argument broke out because he refused to sign it, but he acquiesced later because she and her father, a senior lawyer, lied about the document’s legal effect to him.
Contrary to her claim that the man had “a change of heart”, the wife had exploited his vulnerable mental state by making him sign the document so soon after his mother’s sudden death, the judge added. The wife also threatened to kick him out of the house unless he put pen to paper that day.
“Her knowledge and her intention to take advantage of the plaintiff in this respect may be inferred from the circumstances under which the declaration of trust was drawn up — which indicate an inexplicable sense of urgency in the (wife) to have the plaintiff sign a document with serious implications,” wrote Justice Thean.
She added: “There is no doubt that the (wife’s) exploitation of the plaintiff’s grief, isolation and lack of independent advice to lay claim to all he owns is properly to be described as an act of oppression and abuse of confidence that shocks the conscience of the court.”